Government and business leaders show proof-points as way forward
That climate change has a detrimental effect on clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food supply, and secure shelter – issues that hound developing countries such as the Philippines – can no longer be denied. The country, the World Bank notes, is among the nations most vulnerable to climate-related weather events, while the National Integrated Climate Change Database and Information Exchange states that the impact of climate change in the Philippines is immense, resulting in annual economic losses, changes in rainfall patterns and distribution, droughts, and threats to biodiversity and food security.
While the government, through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Climate Change Commission, and other related agencies, has introduced programs to address the critical issue of climate change, the support of business through a strong public-private partnership model has become necessary, more so now in the face of a pandemic.
It was this timely topic, anchored on the theme ‘Achieving Inclusive Growth in a Pandemic,’ that served as the main discussion point during a webinar hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc. or AMCHAM that brought together key representatives from the government, private sector, the academe, and NGOs.
Strengthening public-private partnerships towards addressing climate change
Speaking on the government’s response to climate change were DENR Usec. Annaliza Teh, and Vernice Victorio, president and CEO of the Natural Resource Development Corp., a DENR-linked government corporation.
Usec. Teh delved on the topic of ‘Green Recovery: A pathway to low carbon and resilient future’ where she outlined concrete ways to promote sustainable development between the government and private sector, especially during an economic crisis. “Dealing with the long-term climate emergency will not come from shutting down the economy as coronavirus has done,” Usec. Teh said. “It will come from restructuring systems to enable people to live in a low-carbon way, such as investing in sustainable infrastructures to ensure longer term impact on sustainability.”
Further emphasizing the value of public-private partnerships, she also stressed the new urgency of “rallying private sector participation and strengthening private-public sector networks” towards achieving sustainable and inclusive economic growth. Specifically, she said it is in the areas of research and development as well as in technology where the private sector can contribute significantly.
Echoing similar sentiments, Victorio said that the government can’t do it alone. “We need the private sector to step up and fast,” she said, noting how natural calamities that are not supposed to happen are in fact happening—such as Typhoon Ursula of 2019 that struck the Visayas region during Christmas.
“We have to face the facts squarely and see that the ship is about to sink,” she stressed. “That is where we are so we must wake up.”
On the part of the private sector, Jonah de Lumen-Pernia, Public Affairs and Communications Director of Coca-Cola Philippines emphasized that “the environment and the economy should go hand and hand especially in the midst of a crisis.”
In particular, she mentioned that focus should be on health, economy, and the environment as these areas are all interrelated, and it is across these very fronts that Coca-Cola has implemented programs that address water security, plastic waste, and the utilization of renewable energy.
“As a business, we can’t slow down our sustainability projects just because of the crisis,” De Lumen-Pernia said. “It’s injected in the business to ensure that the environment is protected and continues to flourish.”
She also urged other companies to take up the challenge as the climate emergency needs concerted action by all sectors. “We need to move fast. We need to move on a massive scale. And we also need to think about the quality and sustainability of these initiatives,” she noted.
AMCHAM Executive Director Ebb Hinchliffe agrees that a multi-stakeholder approach towards a sustainable climate change response would be the way forward to address this global concern.